For the No. 2 McDonogh boys soccer team, the most efficient way to put a damper on surging Loyola on Tuesday afternoon was to start fast.
By getting to the ball first and being productive with it — stringing together passes and finishing chances — the Eagles scored two early goals to set the tone for a 4-1 win over the visiting No. 3 Dons.
All-Metro senior midfielder Malcolm Harris led the offense with one goal and two assists as the Eagles scored two goals in each half to improve to 9-1-1 overall and 5-1-1 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference. The Dons, coming off a 1-0 win over then-No. 1 defending league champion Gilman on Friday, fell to 6-2-1 overall and 4-2-1 in league play.
After senior Andre Hofmeister provided the home team with a 1-0 lead with a surprising shot from 35 yards that sailed over the head of Loyola goalie Sam Hanke in the 11th minute, All-Metro forward Mike Gamble neatly placed a left-footed shot from 10 yards in the lower right corner five minutes later for a 2-0 advantage.
"I think the first 20 minutes was crucial," said Harris, who assisted on Gamble's goal and put the game away with a goal in the first minute of the second half. "Loyola is a good team, and they had a big win on Friday. So for us, we had to come out hard and put them under because if we didn't, they could have put us under the eight ball. The first 20 minutes, we played our style of soccer and we got a good result, so things went really well for us. "
The Dons controlled the final 15 minutes of the first half to try to get back in the game — earning four corner kicks and a number of other free kicks. But they were unable to get anything past McDonogh's organized defense, led by senior central defender Matt Shinksy.
Harris left little suspense for the second half, pouncing on a rebound after Devin Callanan's shot from the right side stayed in front.
For the Eagles, who travel to No. 4 Gilman on Friday, then No. 1 Archbishop Curley next Wednesday, the performance was exactly what coach Steve Nichols wanted to see.
"It helps us — gives us a big confidence boost," he said. "I thought that first 20-25 minutes was the best soccer we've played all year. If we continue to play like that, it's going to be hard for somebody to beat us."
Loyola coach Lee Tschantret was quick to credit McDonogh and expects his Dons to respond favorably.
"You can't have a bad day in this league, especially against guys like this," he said. "They played really well and were able to put some goals in on us. It happens, and as a coach and players, you have to let this one go and just move on to the next one."
Goals: L—Illiano; M—Hofmeister, Gamble, Harris, Ringelman.
Assists: M—Linardi, Harris 2.
Saves: L—Hanke 5; M— Sanchez 3.
Half: M, 2-0.